#AgVocate Sale for the 2015 Cultivate & Connect Conference

The 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference is scheduled for November 9-10, in Nashville, TN. The AgChat Foundation strives Take advantage of the #AgVocate Sale beginning Oct. 1st-10th - AgChat.org or http://nashville.agchat.rocksto bring farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals and educators the best of the best in agvocacy training and presenters. This year’s conference will continue to offer expertise and relevant information pertaining to making meaningful connections in social media, in person and on the legislative level. In addition, the event will be celebratory, marking five years of pioneering grassroots agvocacy.

Attendees will be provided a selection of sessions for the beginner, intermediate and advanced agvocate including Beginning Blogging, How to Plan an Event at Your Farm or Ranch, Digital Storytelling, Vlogging, Crisis Management, Foodography and more. Another key offering at AgChat Foundation events includes our panel discussions. Agvocacy influencers will share insight, data and research pertaining to how consumers receive industry messaging. A second panel, Hashtag #NoFilter will reveal tactical strategies for being transparent while providing relevant information to consumers.

Beginning October 1st, we are offering $10 off registration plus, receive a free t-shirt. Just use discount code “AgVocate” when registering. Be sure to visit the event site at http://nashville.agchat.rocks for the complete agenda and register before October 10th when the #AgVocate Sale and registration closes.



National Education Center for Ag Safety to Observe National Farm Safety & Health Week – Sept. 20-26

We are dedicated to providing resources to support your AgVocacy efforts, AgChat Foundation National Farm Safety and Health Week - Sept. 20-26, 2015is equally dedicated to doing our part to keep farmers and ranchers safe. Join us next week as we team with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) at Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Pesto campus to provide safety awareness during National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 20-26. Below you will find their press release which details how you may join in the celebration. Please note, as part of the celebration next week’s #AgChat Twitter conversation will discuss safety and health on the farm, 7-9pmCT.

“The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) at Northeast Iowa Community College’s (NICC) Peosta campus will be sponsoring webinars in observance of National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 20 – 26.

The 2015 theme for National Farm Safety & Health Week is “Ag Safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle.” The webinars scheduled for each day of the week will be available at www.necasag.org, as well as more information and public service announcements related to this year’s theme.

This year the NECAS webinars, offered each day at noon, will cover the following themes:

  • Monday – Rural Roadway
  • Tuesday – Confined Spaces in Agriculture
  • Wednesday – Children’s Topics
  • Thursday – Health
  • Friday – Tractor Safety

NECAS also invites everyone to join them for ‘#AgChat,’ a Twitter conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 7-9 p.m. (CST)

The theme “Ag Safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle” reminds local and rural communities that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. and farm injuries and fatalities are preventable through education. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that in 2013 farming accounted for 500 fatalities, or 23.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Each year since 1944, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety & Health Week. This recognition has been an annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council and has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first document. Over the years, the development and dissemination of National Farm Safety & Health Week materials shifted from the National Safety Council to NECAS. NECAS is the agricultural partner for the National Safety Council and has been serving the agricultural family and business community since 1997.

As we recognize National Farm Safety & Health Week this September, please join us in promoting safe and healthy practices on our farms and ranches across the U.S. and in our neighboring countries as producers enter the harvest season. NECAS welcomes the collaboration and participation of community members in this year’s observance, and would like to thank the Illinois Farm Bureau for its work in developing the “Ag safety is not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle” logo this year.”

For more information, contact: Gloria Reiter, NECAS administrative assistant, at (888) 844-6322, ext. 371, or reiterg@nicc.edu; or Dan Neenan, NECAS director, at (888) 844-6322, ext. 248, or neenand@nicc.edu.AdditionalinformationaboutNECASisavailableat www.necasag.org.

Announcing Chris Penn as 2015 Cultivate & Connect Keynote

Register now for the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference! http:://nashville.agchat.rocks

Register now by clicking here!

The AgChat Foundation is pleased to announce the opening keynote speaker of the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference, Christopher S. Penn. Penn has been featured as a recognized authority in many books, publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, BusinessWeek and US News & World Report, and television networks such as PBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and ABC News for his leadership in new media and marketing.

Its not a secret that agriculture faces constant misperceptions in the general media, compound by the democratic nature of digital media which lets anyone be an ‘expert’. In this environment, how can you determine who the most powerful influencers are in order to build bridges with them and correct misinformation? In this practical, actionable talk,  Christopher S. Penn will teach the READ framework for finding influencers, assessing their potential, and performing outreach in traditional and social media. You’ll be able to do effective outreach at local, state, regional, and even national levels, ensuring that your message reaches the right audiences at the right times in the places where they consume the most media.

Announcing the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference opening keynote speaker, Christopher S. Penn. Register at http://nashville.agchat.rocks“As messaging pertaining to food, fuel and fiber continues to be quickly cultivated utilizing the world wide web, its important that agriculture advocates are equipped with the tools which will allow them to efficiently and effectively navigate digital media. We are fortunate to have the ability to bring an expert such as Christopher Penn to the table.” noted AgChat Foundation Executive Director Jenny Schweigert.

In 2012, 2013, and 2014 Forbes Magazine recognized Penn as one of the top 50 most influential people in social media and digital marketing. MediaPost renewed this honor in 2015. Marketo Corporation named him a Marketing Illuminator, and PR News nominated him as both Social Media Person of the Year and Social Media Icon MVP in 2014. PR News also named him Agency Professional of the Year.

Mr. Penn is the Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, a public relations firm, as well as co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp New Media Community Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. He is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He’s the author of the best-selling books Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital MarketerMarketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.

The 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference is scheduled for November9-10, in Nashville, TN. The event will provide AgChat Foundation’s trademarked training on connecting farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals and educators with consumers who are generations removed from the farm or ranch. Seating is limited. Register and gain additional information at http://nashville.agchat.rocks.

September 8th, 2015 – AgChat on Antibiotics and Resistance

September 8th, 2015 - AgChat on Antibiotic and Resistance What Are The Concerns With Antibiotics In Agriculture? Consumers hear media stories about deadly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or watch TED talks on “What do we do when antibiotics don’t work any more?” and wonder how agriculture does this to people.

In this #AgChat we learn more about the views of antibiotics from both farmers and consumers. One can sense a need to develop a common language, terminology, and metrics so as to help develop long lived solutions to managing antibiotic resistance.
[Read more…]

What is your favorite ACF memory? – Sweepstakes!

The AgChat Foundation is celebrating five years of pioneering grassroots agvocacy during the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference scheduled for November 9-10, 2015 in Nashville, TN. One lucky sweepstakes winner will receive a complimentary registration to the event by completing our entry form which asks, “What is your favorite AgChat Foundation memory?”

Enter to win the ACF Favorite Memory Sweepstakes! www.AgChat.org

How do I enter? 

Your favorite memory can be from an online connection made through #AgChat or #FoodChat, an in person event, during a conference or anything ACF related. Just complete our entry form by clicking here, submit a photo to accompany your memory via email to execdir@agchat.org (the entry form must be complete and photo received in order to qualify).

We can not wait to hear all about your favorite memories!

Don’t forget to register to make more ACF memories at this year’s Cultivate & Connect conference! Register today at http://nashville.agchat.rocks!

No purchase is necessary to enter or win. A purchase does not increase the chances of winning.

1) Eligibility: Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to those who sign up by completing the Google sweepstakes entry form, and submitting a photo which represents your favorite memory to execdir@agchat.org and who are 18 years of age as of the date of entry. The sweepstakes is only open to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada and is void where prohibited by law. Employees of AgChat Foundation (the “Sponsor”) their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.

2) Agreement to rules: By participating, you agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and you represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements set forth herein. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of AgChat Foundation, Inc., as final and binding as it relates to the content. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.

3) Sweepstakes Period: Entries will be accepted online starting on or about September 8, 2015 and ending September 30, 2015. All online entries must be received by September 30, 2015 at 11:59pmET.

4) How to enter: The Sweepstakes must be entered by submitting an entry using the online form provided in the link provided. The entry must fulfill all sweepstakes requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are not complete with a submission of the Google form and image via email (execdir@agchat.org) or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of AgChat Foundation. You may enter only once and you must fill in the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If you use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules, your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of AgChat Foundation.

5) Prize: The winner of the Sweepstakes will receive a complimentary registration to the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference, valued at $370 for farmers, ranchers, growers; valued at $450 for agribusiness professionals and all others. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by the Sponsor. No cash or other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor’s discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by winners is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for AgChat Foundation to use winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

6) Odds: The odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received.

7) Winner selection and notification: Winners of the Sweepstakes will be selected in a random drawing under the supervision of the Sponsor. Winners will be notified via email to the email address they entered the Sweepstakes within seven (7) days following the winner selection. AgChat Foundation shall have no liability for a winner’s failure to receive notices due to winners’ spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for winners’ provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If the selected winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 15 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and releases as required, prize may be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.

The receipt by winner of the prize offered in this Sweepstakes is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal and state laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY ANY WINNER (AT SPONSOR’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN SUCH WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE SWEEPSTAKES AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.

8) Rights Granted by you: By entering this content and image, you understand that AgChat Foundation, anyone acting on behalf of AgChat Foundation, or its respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right, where permitted by law, without any further notice, review or consent to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use, worldwide in any media now known or hereafter in perpetuity and throughout the World, your entry, including without limitation, the entry and winner’s name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image or statements about the Sweepstakes, and biographical information as news, publicity or information and for trade, advertising, public relations and promotional purposes without further compensation.

9) Terms: AgChat Foundation reserves the right, in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes should (in its sole discretion) a virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes. In such case, AgChat Foundation may select the recipients from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by AgChat Foundation. AgChat Foundation reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes or website or violates these Terms & Conditions.

Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any web site or undermine the legitimate operation of the sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, AgChat Foundation reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.

By entering the Sweepstakes you agree to receive email newsletters periodically from AgChat Foundation. You may opt-out of receiving this communication at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the newsletter.

10) By entering you agree to release and hold harmless AgChat Foundation, and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers and directors from any liability, illness, injury, death, loss, litigation, claim or damage that may occur, directly or indirectly, whether caused by negligence or not, from (i) such entrant’s participation in the sweepstakes and/or his/her acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize or any portion thereof, (ii) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunctioning of any computer, cable, network, hardware or software; (iii) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (iv) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (v) electronic or human error which may occur in the administration of the Promotion or the processing of entries.

11) Disputes: THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF the United States AND the state of Illinois, WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Sweepstakes, participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Illinois having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. costs associated with entering this Sweepstakes), and participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.

12) Privacy Policy:  Information submitted with an entry is subject to the Privacy Policy stated on the AgChat Foundation Web Site. To read the Privacy Policy, http://www.agchat.org click here.

13) Winners List: To obtain a copy of the winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, mail your request along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: AgChat Foundation, PO Box 213, Hopedale, IL 61747. Requests must be received no later than October 31st.

14) Sponsor:  The Sponsor of the Sweepstakes is AgChat Foundation, PO Box 213, Hopedale, IL, 61747.



Why Do I Agvocate? – Mom at the Meat Counter

What is your role in agriculture?

I like to say that I wear lots of hats in agriculture. I am a meat scientist and I conduct research on meat quality on many types of meat, including beef, pork, and goat. Part of my job is to teach classes on livestock and meat evaluation to undergraduate students and in advanced meat science to graduate students. I also mentor students on their research projects in meat science. I am the advisor for the Block and Bridle Club, the Meats Quiz Bowl Team, and the Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon team. I love working with students and showing them new aspects of agriculture.
I grew up on a sheep farm in Texas and we raised lambs and pigs as FFA projects, but I married into the cattle business. My husband and his parents have a herd of Simmental and SimAngus cattle in North Central Arkansas. So, I am also a cattlewoman.
I write a blog called Mom at the Meat Counter about meat and the meat industry from the perspective of a mom meat scientist.
I’m a consumer and a mom. I buy agriculture products to feed my family.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

I like to call it ‘The Mom Club.’ When you become a mom, you join this special club. Moms love to help each other out. It may be advice from the mom behind you in the grocery line. It may be from someone in church. New moms are quick to learn that the best source of knowledge in this crazy adventure of raising kids is other moms.
In my conversations with all these other moms, I realized that I had a knowledge base about meat and food production that they don’t have. Even before I started the blog, I found myself telling other moms about food and answering their questions about meat production. I loved it when I could see those worry lines soften on their face after I visited with them.
Taysha Reitzel, of Dirt Road Charm, blogged last week about how desperate she was to find some relief for her fussy baby and that she was willing to believe anything she read on Google. As a mom, I totally get that. There are millions of moms out there desperately seeking information about the food they feed their families. These are smart women who just want what’s best for their kids and they are getting bombarded with lots of scary information.
Those moms are my inspiration. I want to give them good information that is easy to understand and help them feel better about their food.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

That sigh of relief you hear when you assure someone that something in their food is not as scary as they thought it was.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

I have a hard time figuring out what people want to know. I think sometimes people are embarrassed to ask questions because they don’t want to seem dumb, but it’s hard to know what answers to give if you don’t know the question.
I also find it challenging to make sure my message reaches “beyond the choir.” The really successful bloggers are the ones who are consistently interacting with people from outside of agriculture.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Join a network. Obviously, I think AgChat is a great choice, but when you start down this path of agvocacy, you really need a posse. A network of people are the best to bounce ideas off of, learn about new technology from, laugh and cry with, and these are the people who will have your back if you are attacked by negative groups. I’m involved with AgChat and the Arkansas Women Bloggers group.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

Agchat is really special to me. My friend, Chris Raines, was a founding member. He was a meat scientist. We went to grad school together and it was Chris that encouraged me to start the blog. He helped me come up with the name, Mom at the Meat Counter.
I attended my first Ag Chat conference not long after I started my blog. Although Chris had passed away, it was like he was there. In my mind, his memory and his legacy live on through AgChat.

What’s the next step?

I want to encourage other scientists to agvocate. There are lots of great farm blogs, but not many people with PhDs are out there sharing about agriculture. It has taken a while, but I learned that this form of communication is really hard for people trained as scientists. It’s almost like learning a new language and a new way of thinking. As agricultural scientists, we have to get out of our comfort zones and reach out to everyday consumers.

IMG_9462Janeal Yancey has a Ph.D. in meat science, but is also a mom trying to raise two crazy little girls. Janeal hopes that she can help other moms feel more knowledgeable about the meat they feed their families. You can catch up with Janeal on her blog Mom at the Meat Counter, on Facebook, and on Twitter @MeatCounterMom.

Why Do I Agvocate? – Matt Brechwald

What is your role in agriculture?

I am a learn by doing and lead by example type of person. I have three distinct roles in agriculture. First, I am a producer. We raise cattle, goats and pigs. All of them are sold locally for direct consumption by our customers. We like to fill the void that can be filled by smaller farmers and are proud of our relationships with our customers.
Second, I am a service provider for the agricultural community. When I broke away from my full-time, city job it was to serve farmers and ranchers. The business that I started was with the agricultural community in mind, and I cater to farmers and ranchers.
Last, I am an agvocate for agriculture. I do not list this third because it is my lowest priority. I list this third because I believe my first two roles justify my ability to agvocate. I chose to talk about how people can make supplemental income to support their farming endeavors or to simply live in rural areas. I believe we need good people to return to farms and rural communities, and in my own small way, I want to help this happen.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

This story is a little bit embarrassing, but I’ll tell it anyway. I graduated from Montana State University with a degree in animal science. I had intended to be an veterinarian when I started school, but it quickly became apparent that I did not have the intelligence or aptitudes for that. During college I worked on a number of ranches, and I also worked for a large chemical company selling agricultural chemicals for two summers. By the time I finished school I realized that I did not want to do sales, and I did not want to manage somebody else’s ranch. I wanted to have cattle of my own, and my own property.
I did not have a farm to return to, and I was not going to inherit one. So, I was going to have to work and save enough to by a small farm at some point in the future. I did not see any options in the agricultural career field that appealed to me at that time, and I was interested in law enforcement. So, I became a police officer. Fast-Forward 18 years. I had been working as a police officer for 15 years, and I knew that career was not a genuine fit for me. My wife and I had pledged to buy a farm, raise our own cattle and raise our daughter rural when we got married. None of that had happened yet. We finally got our act together and bought a farm.
Moving out to the country and developing a farm only increased my desire to leave my career in law enforcement. I decided to become a full-time college instructor (I had been teaching college part-time since 2007). In order to make this happen I decided to start a business that would bring in income during the summer months. I started the business, serving people in the agricultural community, and it took off. I enjoyed being an entrepreneur so much, that I turned down an offer to interview for a full-time position as a college instructor. Ultimately I grew my business and left my career in law enforcement. I became 100% agricultural.
One day I was heading down our driveway to go out and service a local farmer. A few of my friends and I were involved in a text message discussion (this is the embarrassing part). I ended up sitting at the end of our driveway for 20 minutes texting about football or something like that. When we were done I had a realization. I had not driven into the city for weeks, I was living and working in a rural community with agricultural people, we were developing a farm that my daughter would grow up on and I had a new lifestyle that offered a lot of freedom and was 100% agricultural.
There is no other way to put it than I was overwhelmed. It had been two years since I started my business and bought the farm. Now, I had reached a moment that I had previously dreamed about but did not think was possible.
I knew at that moment that I wanted to share this with other people. I wanted to help other people do what I had done – find their way back to the farm and return to agriculture. That is when I decided to agvocate.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

My favorite part has been making connections with good, agricultural people all over the country. There is no question that this has been the highlight.
I conduct two interviews per week. One is with somebody who is finding a way to make it in agriculture. The other is with an FFA student who has started their own business during high school.
The people I interview inspire me. They are all agvocates for agriculture, and speaking with them re-affirms my decision to choose this lifestyle.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Ironically, the most challenging part of being an agvocate is the same as my favorite part – conducting two interviews per week. Coming up with content is difficult. Trying to find people to interview can be difficult. I spend a lot of time combing Craigslist, looking for people with unique agricultural service businesses. Agricultural people are busy people. I have interviewed high school students who are involved in school, FFA, sports and other extracurricular activities – all while they are building businesses, taking care of livestock or selling products. They do not have a lot of extra time. So, for them to take out 30 minutes to have a discussion is a big challenge and a great honor for me.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

My advice is simple – Start! We live in an unprecedented time. You can get your message out to so many people through so many platforms. Never before in history has this been possible. However, never before in history has it been possible for so many people to tell your story for you and mis-represent what you are doing. Begin telling people what it is you do and why you do it. Don’t worry about the format or promotion methods. You will figure that out in time. Get that message out there. Don’t think of agvocating as something that “other” people do. Think of it as part of your job and part of your role in agriculture. Like it or not, as a farmer or rancher, you are an ambassador for agriculture. Take this role seriously and tell the story!

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation means a chance to correspond with people who are passionate about agriculture. It also means that there is an opportunity to take a stand on behalf of those who strive to work and thrive in agriculture. The AgChat Foundation is the first, real organization that I know of that has striven to teach people how to adapt to changing media and technology so they can defend what is precious to them – agriculture.

Matt Brechwald is the 4th agvocate highlighted in our Why Do I Agvocate series. Matt releases a weekly podcast called Off Farm Income. Matt and his wife own a small agricultural service AgChat1business and operate a 25 acre farm in Kuna, Idaho. Subscribe to Matt’s podcast on his website and follow him on Twitter @MattBrechwald.

Why Do I Agvocate? – Paint the Town Ag

 What is your role in agriculture?

I married into agriculture onto a third generation beef, poultry, and crop farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Coming from a city, I didn’t know a thing about the hard work, dedication, and passion that farmers & ranchers have for their craft, and I’m constantly learning!
Professionally, I work for Virginia Cooperative Extension, a resource through Virginia Tech and Virginia State that takes university research and puts it to work practically in communities across the state. With them, I am the Farm to Table Coordinator, working with Farm to School activities, facilitating farm to institution procurement, and working with area farmers for best management practices.
I also “agvocate” through my personal blog – PaintTheTownAg.com – where I share our family’s chapter in the big book of agriculture.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Prior to working in Cooperative Extension, I was a preschool special education teacher in an urban school system. I began to notice the disconnect that the kids and their families had with agriculture, even though the city was surrounded by rural area and farms. I started small by bringing agriculture into my classroom on a regular basis, and that evolved into “Farm Friday” for us, a regular partnership with other grades and community members to learn about different aspects of agriculture.
From there I started a school and district-wide program called Farming in the City to connect the elementary kids with agriculture – I’m happy to say that this is something still going strong at the school where I used to teach, even though I am no longer working there.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

My absolute favorite part is being able to answer questions and dispel myths about the “American Farmer.” For most groups or individuals that I encounter, my short hair, glasses, and stylish clothes completely throw them off when I tell them I’m from a farm. It has led to some great conversations!

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

I find two things challenging when advocating for agriculture. For one, Americans in general are very passive about the source of their food, fiber, and fuel. It’s hard to agvocate when the majority are not concerned. The second challenge is being a voice in a sea of passionate individuals who are either 1) working for a cause, or 2) have passion (and speak loudly!) with little factual information.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Don’t hesitate to jump in, but also think carefully about 1) what you want to advocate for within agriculture, and 2) make sure you have resources to support you when questions start rolling your way!
If you married into the farm and are representing the farm at all on social media – make sure you have a pow-wow with the decision-makers on the farm to clarify and come to a consensus on what you will post.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or twitter chat?

I attended the #AgChat conference in Austin last year, as well as hop onto the weekly Twitter chats as much as my schedule allows. The Twitter chats are great for connecting farm/ranch bloggers with consumers. The conference was a way to bring SoMe to life – literally! I met so many people that had only been Gravatars to me before! J This was by far the biggest takeaway, as well as some AMAZING keynote speakers.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is another “tool in the toolbox” so to speak. I look to the Foundation as a resource and model for conversations, posts, and other engagements.

BrianLaurenCows2015Lauren Arbogast is an avid agvocate and blogs about her story in agriculture at www.paintthetownag.com. Her description: City girl meets farm boy. Asks no less than 7 million questions. Has first date on a tractor. Says “yes” atop a Ferris Wheel. Passes farm wife bar exam. Sprouts 2 mini-farmers. Trades religion for a relationship. Finds the joy in life. Realizes she has a chapter to tell in the book of agriculture. Catch up with Lauren on her blog and on Twitter @PaintTheTownAG.


Featured image photo credit to Anna Spears Photography

Introducing ACF’s Summer 2015 Intern & Why Do I Agvocate?

AgChat Foundation would like to officially welcome Melissa Woolpert as our summer 2015 intern. Melissa is an Melissa Woolpert ACF Summer Intern - AgChat.orgalumnae of the inaugural 2015 Collegiate Congress and a graduate student at the University of Vermont, pursuing her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

Her journey to agriculture advocacy has been unique and a strong indication that all people, regardless of their background, can successfully advocate for agriculture. The story is the second in our “Why Do I Agvocate?” series.

Dreaming of becoming a veterinarian, Melissa spent her Monterey County, California childhood riding horses. Her dream led to the University of Vermont to study Animal Science. As a part of coursework, she worked milking and caring for dairy cattle. She was immediately hooked and at the duration of her class, she began milking at a local dairy and has never turned back. Her love of farming developed into a desire to learn more about food and she returned to obtain her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

While she did not grow up around farming or ranching, her love and experience working in the dairy industry has created a drive to foster positive discussion, thought and support for our food system. Her journey from a sunny, Californian eater to an advocating farmer, is shared in more depth on her blog CountrybyChance.com. You can also catch up with her on the CountryByChance Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.  We would love for you to take a look and see how she encourages other eaters to jump into advocating for food.

You will also find a great opportunity to connect with Melissa on the AgChat Foundation Facebook page, #AgChat Facebook group, the FoodChat Facebook page and on Twitter. Please give her a warm, AgChat shout out to welcome her!



Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database

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You asked, we listened! We have received many requests for a resource guide which organizes agriculture agvocates’ blogs and social media pages by production type, methods or area of food production. There are numerous aspects of agriculture and this will provide a resource when you’ve received a question pertaining to an area which you unfamiliar. For example, a turkey farmer has received a question about the side dressing process. The turkey farmer can access this document and find a row crop farmer who can assist in answering the question.

Just click on the image to link to the Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database, or click here! Are you a Twitter lover? Then click here for a list of the agvocate’s Twitter handles (in a Twitter list, of course!).

Do you write an ag related blog or agvocate on social media on a page that isn’t included in the list? Please leave your blog URL, your twitter handle, Instagram handle, and/or Facebook page link in the comments below and we will check it out!